Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A film festival foodie trail @IFFI 2014

The International film festival of India was from the 20th of November to 30 of November and a mouthwatering menu of films were on the menu. Apart from thoroughly gorging on the international and regional fare doled out at IFFI, I ofcourse was keen on the food that could be eaten at this international extravaganza.
exhibition of film posters at IFFI 2014

Ambience: I don’t think I have seen so many lights since Diwali, infact I don’t think I have seen such brilliant lighting even for Diwali, or Carnival for that matter. The road opposite INOX and the ESG building which were the venues for IFFI, had an assortment of stalls, derving food right till 11 at night. There were also stalls inside the INOX courtyard, as well as at the Kingfisher IFFI village. What was unfortunate however was that there were no food stalls at Kala academy. Kala academy has a seating capacity of over 900 and all these movie satiated, but hungr for food people were forced to fend for themselves. The kala academy canteen is poorly stocked at any given time of the year, but faced with a mammoth crowd every 3 hours, well let’s just say they just “couldn’t serve it up’.

Food: There is Good news and Bad. Good news first. The stalls lining the street on the side across INOX was a delight to walk down and sample food. I tried the corn bhel, a large cup of steamed sweet corn with spicy red chilli powder and tangy lemon juice for 50 ruppees. The sugar cane Juice inside ‘FOR REST ‘cafetaria for 20 rupees a glass is refreshing and I’d like to think healthy. Now for the unadventurous or other wise cautious you may want to give the sugarcane juice a miss, or can have one without the dubious ice by paying a little extra. I however have no such qualms, My GI Tract is well versed with Indian street food. This is however a warning for the foreign ‘ delegates milling around. Next came the candy floss, and these fairs are just the place to have sweet pink fluffy spun sugar. Much like our Bollywood fare, full of fluff, technicolour, show a rosy picture of life and sometimes overtly sweet. We sampled the chicken rolls at Shalimar stall for 70 rupees a plate , and yes the quantity is a bit less for the price, but whats an extra 20 bucks when you are having so much fun. They were great by the way. Like Indian chicken tikka spring rolls. The stall inside INOX courtyard by Naim qureshi’s Sigree corner seekh kebab comes from Mumbai every year , and that too only for IFFI. He has been coming for the last 10 years to the IFFI serving up Biryani and kebabs. Their stall is strategically placed a few metres from the movie halls and is the ‘go to place’ between films. Invariably the  movies were running a little late, thus giving us enough time to run and gobble down a plate of Biryani. I maybe biased here because one gets ravenous watching films and the biryani tasted great, maybe because I was hungry. At 120 rupees a lot of people grumbled at the cost, but hey you’ve gotta pay for location and ambience too.

garam jalebis were a treat !

corn bhel

made to order kebabs; malai, seekh and chicken tikka

My favourite stall hands down though was the aapno rajasthan stall, who again don’t have a shop in Goa and just do catering. Which is a shame because these guys were serving some great Marwari vegetarian dishes. We had the aloo tikka with sweet tamarind chutney and thick creamy dahi, for rupees 80. And superb Garam Jalebis, made to order right in front of you for rupees 80 as well. what Jalebis! Crunchy and sticky sweetness, not to mention a beautiful golden brown. We wanted half a plate because frankly it was too much, but they did not consent, and even though I love Jalebis we had to return ours because it was just too much and IFFI has a strict ‘no outside food’ policy.
Now for the bad news. As mentioned earlier there is no food available at kala academy theatre, the food inside INOX itself is minimal. Thus people on a marathon movie watching had to either forego the beginning or end of movies just to come oput for a bite. Inox itself has some great food available through out the year, the steamed momos, the Frankie, waffles, icecream, alas none of these regular fare at INOX was available. Thankfully the popcorn , nachos , and coldrinks are allowed inside. I missed my regular bhel wala at the movies. the next sad part was the non innovativeness at the IFFi. Watching the detective in ‘Beijing blue’ have chinese dumplings, and a steaming bowl of ‘chicken liver soup ‘ on a snowy winter night got me craving for chinese fare. What I wouldn’t give for a plate of steamed dumplings. They were available in the Kingfisher IFFI village, I am told, but the point being , considering there were so many international movies , could we not expect some international fare? Even some regional cuisine to go with the regional movies?  In ‘Teenkahon’ the protagonist sat with his friends enjoying a plate of ‘beguni bhaja’ in the monsoon showers. It made me hungry for the eggplant fritters.  Films and food don’t go together as far as IFFI goes, they don’t allow food in the halls, they don’t have enough food and drink stalls at the venues, and the fare is limited at best.

chicken rolls

candy floss in the making

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I love my cinema, especially in a hall full of people sharing a collective experience of a slice of life. I wish along with the slice of life, I had a slice of something edible as well.

Kuheli Bhattacharya Rane

Goa on my plate

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

10 things I learnt at the IFBA 2014, indian food bloggers awards 2014

The food bloggers association of India was hosting the annual Indian food bloggers awards on nov 2 2014, and the upper most thing in my mind, apart from what would be served for lunch, was what would I wear!

Now, I know that it is one of the most vexing problems of a woman’s life but seriously, what does a food blogger wear? Most would say , well , you yourself are a foodblogger. I maybe delusional, but not that delusional, yes I loved food and occasionally dabbled in writing about my travel tales, but could I compare myself to that enigmatic breed of people who not just dabbled, but dipped their paint brushes in glorious amounts of food adventures and drew bold brush strokes of exquisite food blogging masterpieces on the wide canvas of social media? God, no.

My husband suggested “Go dressed like a patrakar.”

Food bloggers are not patrakars! I exclaimed, they are… you know, more techno savvy kind of… well, whatever they are, they certainly are not patrakars!

I gave up defining a food blogger, but toyed with the idea of wearing patrakar type clothes. I could totally rock the khadi kurta , denims and a jhola look.

Anyways with no small amount of trepidation, and a fair sense of not knowing what I was getting myself into, I decided to go nevertheless, to the FBAI dialogues and the IFBA 2014 at JW Marriott, Mumbai.

rushina's presentation

rushina's presentation

Here’s what I learnt over the days discussions.

1.       Social media is definitely trending: whether it’s twitter, instagram, facebook, or youtube, social media is definitely where all the action is happening. It’s real time, quantifiable, has longer staying power than traditional print media, more shareable, and more relatable because it’s personalised and more like story telling rather than promotional.

2.       Even the traditional media guys want to move to blogging/vlogging: Kalyan Karmakar from Finely chopped fame spoke about how established journalists and food writers were now moving to blogging, rather than bloggers wanting to become traditional medium food journalists. Social media had shaken up the food scene and traditional media was following suit.
chef's take a selfie after their interactive session on innovations

3.       It’s tough for the restaurateurs :  Well I have seen the movie Chef, and how the power of twitter could make or break a man’s business or even his reputation, but was it actually a concern in India? Yup absolutely! Most of the chefs on the panel, and even the big names in the food journalism industry spoke about the grief they got from so called ‘authority on the way a dish is cooked, because their mother makes it that way’ food critics on social food portals such as Zomato, Burrp, and such. Chef Nikhil Chib infact spoke of a time when one of them tried to teach him how to make a soufflé! The sheer audacity! I could literally hear Shahid Kapoor from Haider screaming ,”chutzpah ho raha hai, chutzpah.” 

In all honesty I love reading trip advisor reviews, but then I guess I know where these guys are coming from. Wouldn’t I feel the same way if a patient came and started teaching me how to prescribe glasses?

4.       These guys really know their Super Heroes: So both chef Sanjeev Kapoor and the inimitable restaurant reviewer Rashmi Uday singh both quoted spiderman and “with great power comes great responsibility” again warning the food blogger community from commiting chutzpah, and writing about food responsibly. While our host for the night the hilarious chef Saransh Golia quoted star wars with the ever popular ‘ May the force be with you’.

5.       It’s tough for the PR groups of hotels as well: Nikhila who handles the Taj group of hotels in Bombay spoke about how the average consumer had an attention span of just 8 seconds, lesser than that of the goldfish, and to reel these consumers in was not an easy task. (
 for the record she didn’t use the term reel, I just extended the Goldfish simili) But what she did say was that how to keep the consumer interested was a constant worry ‘ she believed in the power of the pan, over the power of the pen’ and even though she did encourage food journalists to come and experience the hotels culinary fare, she had faith in the fact that good review or bad, the ultimate test was not in the text but in the taste, and if you have a good product even with bad press, people would walk in that door. Café zoe too echoed that thought and said they had spent just 20000 on PR since the time they had opened.

6.       The food business is all about innovating, which has it’s hits and misses: Greg from the barking deer spoke about their masala chai beer as part of their micro brewery which had done really well, while a few other chefs spoke about ‘fusion food ‘ like jalebi flavoured cheese cakes not really making the cut. Trial and error was the name of the game. Greg from one of the first micro breweries of Mumbai shared that even though a stand-up comedy night seems like a great idea, it hadn’t really worked for them, while a trivia night on the ‘Game of thrones’ had been received well. What will bring in the Happy customer at happy hours is a question with no right answers, but bottom line is, you have GOT to have a product with VFM- value for money.

7.       Times have changed for the chefs: Chef Sanjeev Kapoor reminisced about the time when as the executive chef of a hotel, he had been asked by the GM of the hotel, to not mix with the patrons, and know his place which was ‘in the kitchen’. Chefs today are on prime time television, they are the celebrities, and that’s where their place should be. Chef Himanshu of the Marriott said that the ‘food blogger’ had been instrumental in bringing about this change. whistling time!!

8.       Revenge of the Home cooks: Sneha from Popadum got bored of all the ‘fusion food’ and craved for some ‘comfort food’ so she decided to open her home to people who wanted the same. Turns out a lot of people wanted to sit on the floor of her dining room, and eat of a banana leaf. Rushina MG from APB cook studio spoke of a time when ‘exotic food’ meant buying baby corn and mushrooms at the vegetable vendor, and today we have artisanal bakers, people who make and sell cheese, and bespoke chocolates better than the ones at dutyfree.

9.       The you tube success story: Aditi Rajvanshi spoke eloquently and at length about how ‘the common man’ or woman is taking to youtube to make their version of home videos. So cute I thought, I personally watch only music videos on youtube and so was flabbergasted to know that people watch 6 billion hours of video per month, and 100 hours of video is uploaded per minute. Go figure! The cool thing is that a 53 year old lady Nisha Madhulika has a hindi recipes channel on youtube and makes more money in a month than the average 30 year old techie at google. We also got to see the top 10 most watched food shows of youtube and to believe it or not Nigella Lawson was not on that list, but our very own Sanjeev Kapoor was making us proud.

10.  Even the connoisseurs love their tapri chai: Anaggh who was one of the panellist spoke passionately when he said “when the waiter comes and dumps the chaas on the table, and a few drops splash out on the table- WE LIKE THAT YAAR!” It spoke of simpler times when ‘social ‘ meant hanging out with friends and not’ ‘social media’, it brought back memories of Milan ki chai for me. Milan the small tapir outside KEM hospital in Parel, where doctors and patients alike sat on the rickety wooden benches drinking their cutting chais. It reminded me of post night duty mornings when one went for the bun musca, double chai and the inimitable ‘Mysore masala dosa’ with beetroot and grated carrot, as we exchanged pleasantries with other medicos from Tata cancer hospital and Wadia children and maternity hospitals from across the road. We didn’t mind the chipped glasses, the way they didn’t mind the stains on our coats.

Later the same day, after the super interesting FBAI dialogues we had the IFBA awards night. That’s Indian food blogger awards for the uninitiated. What amazed me were the different types of food blogs out there. You have the recipe blogs, the blogs on baking, micro blogs which run on instagram and FB, travel and culinary blogs, vegetarian blogs, regional cuisine blogs, photo blogs, restaurant review blogs, even blogs by chefs! Wow, these guys have food blogging down to a science.

my brother and me after the surprise win.

majorly stoked, impossibly happy.

To my delight and surprise, I won the runners up award in the travel and culinary section of the IFBA awards. Got to meet some of the most celebrated names in the food industry, and share selfies with some of my favourite food bloggers. Majorly stoked, needless to say.
Special mention to Sameer Malkani co founder of Food bloggers association of India and his wife Saloni for making me feel so welcome. Also the guys at JW Marriott, I cannot even imagine what must have gone through their minds as they served  a house full of food lovers, food critics, lunch , hugh tea and dinner. They served up their creations to be loved, hated, critiqued, instagrammed and tweeted. They did it with utmost grace and hospitality. They shared recipe tips even as they worked the live stations, they held up plates of food so tthat bloggers could get the best shot of their amuse buche. They opened their hearts and their wine cellars, for a fantastic event.

I started foodie trails as my personal lip-smacking journey through life. Getting to know people and places through the food they serve. I journed the short distance from Goa to Mumbai for this event, and actually made the long journey from ‘them’ to ‘us’.
Somewhere during High tea and the cake mixing session, I found myself next to a girl and asked her “so what’s your blog about?” (that was the most used icebreaker at the event by the way) and she answered that she hadn’t really started a blog but would like to. “I really do not belong here” she said,
“you like food, right?”
“Oh I LOVE food “ she said
“well then you belong here”

the random gyaan queen doing cake mixing.

Yup, that was me, giving random gyaan to anyone who was willing to hear. Me acting all food bloggerly.

As I sat through the morning sessions I would whatsapp my friends back home “these guys are so committed, these guys really know their stuff, these food bloggers.”
But, as the day came to a close I had finally realised I belong to this awesome community of food bloggers, it’s no more they but we.

To food lovers everywhere, if any of this made any sense to you, well then “welcome to the lipsmacking journey of food blogging”

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Dinner masterchef style, with Sarah Todd

There’s no better way to wind down a hectic work week night than curling up on the sofa with home made dal-chawal and fried fish, and watch Masterchef. Homecooks ranging from carpenters to dentists, from accountants to drivers follow their passion to the kitchen and beyond, while you sit glued to the telly mesmerized by the freshest of ingredients, and choicest of produce, made to shine, pop, and crackle while being presented in ways you had never imagined possible for home grown chefs.

The recent Masterchef Australia season 6 hosted by Matt Preston, Gary Mehigan and George Calombris, had a gorgeous contestant named Sarah Todd, who happened to come down to our part of the world and not only make Goa more beautiful than it already is, but also host a 5 course dinner at the Park Hyatt, Goa.
Wow! A chance to actually taste the food that good enough to watch on prime time television! We couldn’t pass up such an opportunity and so on a rainy Saturday evening found ourselves amongst the other foodies of Goa, and the veritable whose who of the inner circle enjoying a tete a tete with Sarah Todd as we sipped on our pre dinner cocktails.

Tall and skinny, with an angelic face, Sarah Todd effortlessly manages to win the admiration of men and envy of women around her. A professional model having worked with the likes of Gucci and swimwear seafolly, Sarah has effortlessly made the transformation to a chef with her scrubbed sans-make up looks, and dedication to detail when it comes to food. A mother of a three year old, and an Indian origin fiancé, she was a huge hit with the Indian audience when she cooked aloo gobi for one of the rounds on the Australian show filmed in Melbourne. It’s her maiden trip to India, and having already been to Delhi and headed to Bombay, she knew she wanted to do a pitt stop in the ‘zen place of India’ , Goa.

The casa Sarita restaurant in Park Hyatt, goa was elegantly turned out for the event, dressed in centerpieces of yellow roses, and woven table draperies, sharply dressed servers and busy bee chefs.The open kitchen concept allowed us a peek into the world of prep and serve as the chefs went about drizzling sauces and sprinkling herbs as last minute touches to the courses.

We started with the first course : a choice of a lentil salad with roast tomatoes and feta, or zucchini and peas pakoras with crab meat and dried fig chutney. The lentil salad was a bowl of health, complete with the daily dose of greens, roasted tomatoes and ‘chilke wali moong’ lentils, a strip of raosted papad added drama as well as crunch to the salad. Sprouting the lentils overnight would have added more flavor and added nutrition to an already healthy salad. I felt it was a bit bland for my Indian palate and would have loved a sprinkling of rock salt and a dash of lemon as dressing.

Next up was the chilled asparagus and ginger soup. Green was definitely the colour of the first with the salad bowl and then with the pale green cold soup. Mildly flavoured the asparagus really came across, and it was ably accompanied by the garnishing of slightly crunchy and sweet caramelized onions. What jarred were the large pieces of ginger which came in bite fulls rather than as a subtle after taste.

The palate cleanser of frozen kiwi lassi, was Sarah’s answer to the frozen yogurt craze that seems to have taken over health conscious foodies world wide. The humble lassi , the Indian yogurt drink, gets the Australian twist with kiwis, and then frozen to resemble a dollop of ice-cream thus tasting decadent even though its made with all the goodness of fruits and probiotics. Served as a palate cleanser between courses, this little green ‘fro-yo’ stole the show.

For main course we had a choice of Sarah’s famed Gobi paneer with Mint chutney, and a slow cooked shoulder of lamb cooked overnight and served with a port wine jus. To choose between cauliflower and lamb was a no contest at all, especially when we were a room full of carnivorous foodies. But since the cauliflower and panner dish had been such an emotional connect of Sarah’s with India, I decided to click a picture of hers with her vegetarian dish, and then made a choice to eat the spiced lamb instead.

The lamb was packed with flavor, every single shred was covered in spices. The meat itself was tender enough even for the toothless, having been cooked at leisure. The jus had hints of cinnamon and cloves and had undertones which reminded of Indian kitchens redolent in spices. A few sweet carrots helped balance the spicy overtones, and a topping of crunchy potato fries completed the dish. Indians are a carbs crazy race, and I was craving of a sweet naan bread to wipe up all the gorgeous gravy. This dish interestingly was the only one with a marginal Goan touch. Executive chef Saulo Bacchilega informed that Sarahs original recipe called for a madiera jus, but they had made the decision to go with the Goan port wine.

To round up our culinary journey we had the vanilla and rosemary panna cota with walnut crumble and pears poached in red wine. This was a truly masterchef dish in terms of sophisticated plating, a whole range of textures and flavours from the crunchy walnuts to the crumbly biscuit to the sweet smooth pannacota and the liquored pears. Bellisimo! It was a dish too pretty to eat, and yet we had to make the difficult decision of either admiring it or savouring it.

No meal is ever complete without chocolate. Chocolate for me is the veritable fullstop after the delightfully long and twisted sentence which is the meal. And we called it a night over chocolate truffles filled with fennel seed.

A meal is even more enjoyable when you have a lively and interesting company to share it with. Our host the gorgeous Sarah flitted from table to table, and also introduced each course making the meal into a personal conversation that she had with each of the guests. With each course she showcased a bit of her own personality as well as that of the country and city that she comes from. She shared her love for Indian cuisine and spices, and her Indian connect through her Fiance Dev and son Phoenix. A tiring day of interacting with strangers and smiling for selfies and yet she remained gracious till the very end.

We were delighted to have shared our table with the most fun group of people. Jia singh a food and lifestyle feature writer and a nutritionist and her husband Aviraj singh, a super cute couple from delhi who kept the conversation alive with their travel tales and chiding and leg pulling. Odette and Joe mascarenhas who are first lady and man of Goan cuisine in Goa, Joe sparkled with wit and general bonhomie and fit right in with us youngsters with his zeal for life. Edra our personable table host who works at the park hyatt joined right in with us foodies as we not only ate but also clicked and snapped our meals. A lovely couple were gifted this beautiful experience by their daughter Ayesha Barreto who is an RJ with a local radio channel shared tips to a happy and successful marriage even as Pawan my husband and Aviraj, decided that they were comrades when it came to the ‘shaadi ke sideeffects’. 

Fun, food, and great photo ops : what else could one ask for?

Monday, September 29, 2014

foodie trail : Istanbul

On the way to Istanbul, I saw a documentary on the history of Istanbul o the inflight entertainment selection. It was called , the tale of three cities, Constantinople, Byzantium and Istanbul, and how a single city had so many conquerors and so many people coveting it’s strategic placement linking Europe and Asia. A melting pot of cultures and races, almost like India itself, and I wondered how the food would be, again I thought it would be like India, but it wasn’t.

The minute I entered the markets, I was blown away by the perfection of the fruits and vegetables. Peaches the size of a large Mango, and tomatoes which I needed to hold with two hands! Vibrant coloured and almost bursting with freshness, they looked like food on steroids. I am not sure if they were organic or specially genetically modified or is the soil in these parts of the world just more fertile, but our first meal in Istanbul proved that the produce not just looked good, but tasted great as well. So you know how they keep showing on travel and living TV shows how easy it is to rustle up a great rustic salad in minutes? Just toss tomatoes and parsley leaves with some salt and pepper, drizzle olive oil and a squeeze of lemon and Presto you have a summer salad. Yeah right I used to say. Our first meal was that very same salad and without hiding behind heavy salad dressings and being weighed down by any fancy ingredients the peppery parsley , the juicy tomatoes, and the tart lemon derived their place in a travel and living show on Istanbul. Right then I realised that anything I taste here will be difficult to replicate back in India, if I don’t smuggle some of the tomatoes back with me.

The iconic tram on istiklal street 

simple fish preparations with wedges of lemon.

dessert made with three different variations of milk.tasted like bread pudding and yet so much more.

a treasure trove of fresh veggies

can I take these tomatoes back home?

clams with lemon.


The people here love to eat out, and even when they do their cuisine is all salads and proteins, we never saw people gorge on breads or carbs of any kind! The street food consisted of Doner kebabs, which were slow cooked on rotating rods, much like the Lebanese shawarma meat. There were mussels being sold for a lira each. They had a bed of cooked rice with a fried mussel on top, all enclosed withing their individual mussel shells. Very interesting and quite tasty too.kokorec a type of large sausages grilled over an open oven and served on bread is a fun food on the go, and might I add very tasty. Fresh cut fruits sold at almost all tourist sites as well as fresh fruit juices. I don’t think any one drinks canned soda here, it’s just all so healthy, not to mention the enormous nmber of people walking around in sultanahmet and istiklal street, with the exercise and the healthy eating I was sure I would actually lose weight gorging on their food.

If you asre serious about Turkish cuisine and want a one stop place for everything authentic , then catch the ferry and head to the Asian side of Istanbul, because that’s where ciya sofrasi is. This place does a different meny everyday depending on what the chef wants to make, it all supposedly authentic home cooked variety of Turkish cuisine. The waiters and waitresses are super helpful and thay know English. Our waitress actually was a student  studying microbiology and genetics at the university! I went overboard ordering al that looked weird and wonderful.

Sour meatballs, which had bulgur, ground lamb, pieces of lamb cooked in mint and pomegranate juice a lot like Kashmiri goshtaba. The kashkek with lamb which was a lot like a hyderabadi haleem had lamb, beans, wheat and herbs. The stuffed dried vegetables are a must have , they are dried red peppers and dried aubergines stuffed with ground meat,rice, and spices. A lot of eateries have these dried peppers and aubergines hanging as garlands as a decoration.

A large number of maindishes were only vegetarian and cooked strictly without any addition of meats. A lot of people also opted for the mezze menu which again had a large selection of vegetarian dishes. There was hummus and babaganoush and the whole mediteranean palate.
Perde pilavi was a hard ball made of baked wheat dough much like the covering of our dum biryani. One has to break open the wheat ball to get to the rice and chicken preparation. It tasted like a very mildly flavoured indian pulav.

We ended the meal with a kind of baklava served with thick cream called sobiyet. The meal was a mix of so many elements and was at once different as well as familiar. The Kashmiri and hyderabadi cuisine had definitely borrowed elements from the Ottoman dynasty. But whereas Indian cuisine ids all about our breads and rice and rich gravies and curries, this was a lot lighter.

a breakfast of borek.

local bakery making simit.

turkish coffee in cute turkish cups.

blue and white the colours of istanbul.

hagia sofia with its interesting history of building and rebuilding, from christianity to islam to a museum. signifies the metamorphosis of istanbul.

Doner kebabs.

turkish tea comes in various flavours. Viagra tea anyone?

batter fried calamari.


the three parts of istanbul city

ciya sofrasi, limited dishes, unlimited flavours.

the mezze banquet.

roasted bell peppers.

perde pilav

turkish tea and local white wine.

who knew yogurt and honey make such an interesting combination.

organic honey from honey combs, just chew on the honey comb and experience the sticky sweetness.

The day starts with a classic Turkish breakfast, and we had ours at the many borek shops. Borek is like a puff with layers of phyllo pastry. The flavours changed according to the stuffing; potato, cheese and meat, spinach or my favourite sweet with a dusting of sugar on it. It did seem to have tons of buttery goodness and working people took their borek on the go as well. drink some Turkish tea or traditional Turkish coffee to wash it down. They call tea chai too, and it is without milk and optional sugar. The coffee had a high sediment rate and afterwards the cup had a significant amount of silt at the bottom of th cup, and yet the heady aroma was enough to drive away any drowsiness. Another good place for breakfast was Mado, where a complete breakfast with olives and cheese and cold cuts is served. People also buy a sesame seed studded donut from the many ‘Simit’ selling shops. Simit was a doughy bread and a lot like the sesame breads of Kashmir. Some of the more touristy places also served simit with nutella.

We arrived in Istanbul during the fishing season and tens of people were seen fidhing on the galata bridge . The bridge itself was a teo tiered bridge with trams and cars on the top, while the bottom tier had restaurants and sheesha bars. Lucky for us we lived close to the fish market ‘balik pazari’ . this was no smelling bylane selling fish, it was a lane with restaurants and people selling fresh fish, no fishy smells, and also a few souvenir shops for trimmings. Nights in the balik pazari was like a fairy land, the lights, sounds and plate after plate of batter fried calamaris, shrimp casseroles, grilled salmons. It went on till the wee hours of the morning, people here love to hang out.

The area around the hagia sofia and the topkapi palace has a lot of eateries, enjoy a leasurely meal inside the topkapi palace overlooking the bosphorus at the topkapi palace café. For a breath taking panorama of the entire mosque surrounsings head to the roof top restaurant sultan terrace. The blue mosque requires for covered heads and knees to enter the mosque, they also don’t allow visitors during prayer time. We went late in the evening when there were less crowds and the evening azaan resonates across the mosques, while you sit sipping chai in the court yard.
rows upon row of delight! turkish delights.

loving the baklava. 

Kokorec. a must have on the streets of istanbul city.

prepping for a day of doner kebabs.

The most famous exports out of Istanbul though are the sweets; baklava and Turkish delight. There were a mind boggling variety of baklava, both with pistachios and walnuts. They were rolls and flat layers of phyllo and baklava in all shapes , sizes and prices. The quality products don’t come cheap. I loved the one stuffed with whole pistachios. Turkish delights again came in a variety of flavours from chocolate to orange to rose, and then all varieties of dry fruits. The ones with flavoured water were cheaper compared to the ones filled with nuts. Dusted with powdered sugar , it reminded me of jujubes. Personally I liked the ones with nuts, and lots of it. Again the price ranged from 6 liras a box to 35 liras a box! Always ask to taste before you buy.
The area around galata tower is an eclectic mix of art and music, with bespoke shops selling canvas paintings, handbags and jewellery and also guitars, and drum sets. There is an interesting coffee shop here where the logo says :Istanbul , they call it chaos, we call it home. Even as the evening wears on and the shutters come down, the street is converted into a graffiti lane because of the painted shop shutters.
Istanbul is divided into 3 unequal parts, one part is the old city where the sulatanahmet, the hagia sofia, and the grand bazaar is, the next is taksim where the fun and the hip and happening party crowd walks the walk on istiklal street and lingers around the galata tower, and the third is the Asian part across the waters, where the sunsets over the west giving a glowing background to the silhouetted mosques.
Istanbul:  A land of contrasts and colour, of vibrant chaos they have made their own, a constant reminder of their chequered past. A land not unlike India.